On sparing Stockton from more prisons

It sometimes seems the state decided to solve its perennial conflicts with various cities and regions over new prison siting by deciding to build all future prisons at Stockton.

That would simply be unjust. Especially since the L.A. area contributes the lion’s share of felons.

There are two ways to stop the state from bulding more prisons in Stockton. One is to challenge the environmental impact report as various city plaintiffs (led by the Chamber) did last time. The other is to change excessively harsh laws to stem prisoner population growth so that the state doesn’t need to build more prisons.

The New York Times plumps for the latter alternative in this wise editorial. After denouncing Three Strikes as  “deeply irrational and misguided,” it continues:

“There are, however, even more inmates sentenced under a lesser-known part of the 1994 law, which automatically doubles the sentence for a second felony. As of June 2013, there were more than 34,000 “two-strikers” in state prison — a quarter of the whole inmate population. Many are serving absurdly long sentences because the law does not consider the seriousness of their second strike.”

It would be interesting to know how many laws that conduced to prison expansion originated in the legislative arm of the prison guard’s union, seeking to grow in membership and political clout. But that is academic. We tried being Dirty Harry, and it didn’t work. Besides, if you support harsh laws or oppose reform, you support making Stockton the prison capital of California.


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